This second installment of Tavis Smiley Reports examines the forgotten agenda of Martin Luther King Jr., whose famed “Beyond Vietnam” speech, given at Riverside Church in 1967, led to an abrupt loss of his popularity in the last year of his life.
The program explores the relevance of King’s anti-war position to the current U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor bestowed upon both King and President Barack Obama.
Tavis Smiley Reports MLK: A Call to Conscience is based on dozens of hours of interviews with King’s friends and with scholars who study his legacy, including:
- Dr. Vincent Harding, drafter of the “Beyond Vietnam” speech
- Clarence Jones, King’s legal advisor
- Dr. Cornel West, a leading expert on race in America
- Dr. Susannah Heschel, daughter of activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
- Dr. Clayborne Carson, director of the King Institute at Stanford University
- Marian Wright Edelman, Organizer for the Poor People’s Campaign with King
- Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning King historian
King’s closest advisors discuss the divisions within the civil rights movement over King’s opposition to the war in Vietnam—and the political and public fallout from his criticism of American foreign policy.
Dr. Vincent Harding, who is co-credited with writing the “Beyond Vietnam” speech, tells Tavis that King’s inner circle worried about the ramifications of the speech, both before and after he gave it.
“We were concerned, he was concerned, but he had really come to the point, as the speech is trying to say, where if he was to be a man of conscience, a man of compassion, he had to speak,” said Dr. Harding.
He added, “But it was precisely one year to the day after this speech that that bullet which had been chasing him for a long time finally caught up with him. And I am convinced that that bullet had something to do with that speech.”